Nineteen American citizens have reported symptoms similar to those suffered by U.S. diplomats who had been identified as victims of alleged attacks in Cuba.
“Since September 29, the Department of State has been contacted by 19 U.S. citizens who reported experiencing symptoms similar to those listed in the Travel Warning after visiting Cuba,” a spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told the Miami Herald in an email.
“We continue to urge U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Cuba,” she added.
In late September, the State Department issued a travel warning advising Americans not to travel to Cuba because they could become victims of mysterious attacks such as those suffered by 24 diplomats and their families while they were stationed in Havana. The U.S. also removed most of the staff at its embassy in the Cuban capital.
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Among the symptoms described in the travel warning are: “ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.”
In January, the State Department changed the wording and currently recommends “reconsidering” traveling to Cuba. However, officials stressed that the situation on the island had not changed, nor their message to American travelers. The list of possible symptoms remained unchanged in the new travel advisory.
“Because our personnel's safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk,” the latest advisory says. “Attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and at Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri in Havana.”
The State Department did not say whether the U.S. citizens reported hearing strange noises — as some of the 24 diplomats did — nor whether they stayed at the Nacional or Capri hotels. The State Department also did not clarify whether U.S. doctors and investigators have determined that these travelers had suffered the same kind of attacks as the diplomats.
“We are not in a position to medically evaluate or provide individual medical advice,” the spokesperson said. “However, we encourage private U.S. citizens who have traveled to Cuba and are concerned about their symptoms to seek medical attention.”
The State Department representative said they still don’t have “definitive answers” about these attacks and that the investigation continues. U.S. officials, however, have addressed the issue at several bilateral meetings held in Washington this month with members of the Cuban government.
“We take advantage of every opportunity to remind the Cuban government of its obligations under the Vienna Convention to take all appropriate steps to protect our diplomats,” she said.
The Cuban government, which has emphatically denied any responsibility and called the attacks “science fiction,” is trying to counteract the travel alert with a message of its own. In an event titled CubaMediaDay on Monday in Havana, representatives of U.S. travel agencies reiterated to the invited foreign press that Cuba is “one of the safest tourist destinations in the world.”
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres